Review: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
PLOT: Director Morgan Spurlock takes us into the wacky world of San Diego Comic-Con, via the points of view of newbies and old pros alike, to examine the allure and spectacle of the greatest geek convention on Earth.
REVIEW: Do you know what San Diego Comic-Con is? Good, because I'm not going to summarize it for you. Neither will Morgan Spurlock in his new documentary COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN'S HOPE, a charming, enjoyable look at the summer event and its quirky visitors. Instead of a standard overview and breaking-down of the the geek bonanza's history and present, Spurlock trains his cameras on several different visitors - each representing a different aspect of the Con - and in the process, gets to the bottom of the different appeals of Comic-Con and what makes it so special, even as it continues to evolve.
Which means, of course, that it's must-see material if you've ever attended such a thing. But what's so refreshing about it is that anyone can enjoy it, because it's simply really, really entertaining.
We meet The Geek, an aspiring artist who toils away in Missouri as a bartender who hosts geek nights and dreams of being discovered at Comic-Con. The Soldier, an amateur illustrator, holds similar hopes, though the fact that he's never been to a convention or even a big city promises to be a daunting experience.
The Collector is, you guessed it, a man whose massive action figure accumulation looks to get even bigger if he can track down a prized Galactus toy. Meanwhile, The Designer is a young woman who hopes her startlingly impressive costume and creature designs get noticed at the masquerade costume show, where the competition is intimidating.
The Survivor is Chuck Rozanski, the owner of the famed Mile High Comics in Denver and possessor of one of the rarest comic books around, Red Raven #1. As he prepares for his umpteenth visit to San Diego, Rozanski bemoans the current state of Comic-Con (you know, it's not so much about comics anymore) while also contemplating selling his most treasured book. In debt, he could really use the $500k; but are any of the buyers serious, and how serious is he about letting go of it?
(Just as an aside, Rozanski happens to have the best line in the movie: When a woman tells you to grow up, that's God's way of telling you to get a new woman. Amen.)
Not looking to get a new woman is James, a nerd who met his girlfriend of one year at last year's Con. James plans on proposing to his beloved at this year's, although it won't be so easy: the big step is to go down at a Kevin Smith panel, (with Smith's participation!) and that's one thing, while getting rid of his girlfriend long enough to pick up a custom engagement ring (she proves to be hilariously clingy, perhaps a preview of things to come) is yet another. Even as we witness his increasingly frazzled journey, he and his gal still have time to hit all of their desired panels some things just take priority.
For these people, Comic-Con isn't just a laugh; each is betting on this trip to change their future. Their lives depend on it, and the movie shows us that so many of the people who make the annual trek to San Diego in July feel the same way. Spurlock wisely takes seriously what his subjects take seriously; following your passion and devoting your life to something is always going to be filled with the heartache and ups and downs even if your passion is collecting toys or dressing up in a costume. There's good humor, though; the geeks on hand are able to laugh at themselves, even as Spurlock is careful to never make fun of them. (Some of the visuals will provoke laughter no matter what, however.)
Another of Spurlock's deft touches is creating a fair amount of suspense within each subplot, as they build to conclusions we're thoroughly invested in: Will Rozanski find a buyer for his his prized books, and if he does, will he get cold feet about actually selling them? Will the marriage proposal go without a hitch, even as it depends on dozens of things going right (including Kevin Smith's involvement)? Are the artists going to find out they have the right stuff when they present their work to industry professionals, or are they going to have their dreams crushed right in front of our eyes?
All of this engaging drama is wrapped up in the larger than life surreality of the event, with insight from some above-the-title names in both the movie and comic-book worlds: Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Robert Kirkman Todd McFarlane, Seth Rogen, Joss Whedon, Harry Knowles and, of course, Stan the Man Lee are among the uber-nerds who lovingly dissect what Comic-Con means to them (the latter three served as executive producers). What comes across in each of these interviews is that the celebrities who appear there are just as prone to geeking out as the average attendee; being famous will never trump having a good time with their own kind.
It's the sense of community that resonates in A FAN'S HOPE. Everybody wants to belong, in one way or another, and Comic-Con is that place for thousands upon thousands of folks who are still young at heart. A place where an overweight stormtrooper can be cool, a Dungeons and Dragons-playing dork can get laid and a guy who draws cartoons in his room all day is regarded as a god. How frackin' cool is that?
|Extra Tidbit:||COMIC-CON EPISODE IV opens on APRIL 6th.|